J.D. Crowe & The New South

J.D. Crowe & The New South

Rounder, 1975


REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


J.D. Crowe could be considered one of the first in the second generation of bluegrass music.  That is, the generation that came after the first, which included Bill Monroe and his iconic high lonesome sound. Crowe had spent several years backing the “King Of Bluegrass” Jimmy Martin, which used a very traditional band set up. He formed the New South in the ‘70s, which was part of the leading edge of “progressive bluegrass.” This included bands like the Seldom Scene, a group that has endured to this day and yields immense influence in the genre. For example, today the use of the dobro in a bluegrass band has become as common as a banjo, whereas in the ‘70s it was seen as controversial in some circles.  Here, J.D. Crowe employs a young Jerry Douglas (currently well known for being part of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Alison Krauss and Union Station) to perform it to great effect. Additionally, the use of a drum kit is still seen by some as a departure for the genre, but a few tracks on this 1975 album make use of one.

On this eponymous album, J. D. Crowe brings not only Jerry Douglas but also the famous guitar picker Tony Rice on guitar and lead vocals, equally famous Ricky Skaggs on tenor vocals, fiddle, mandolin, violin, viola, and Bobby Slone on bass. Tony Rice is absolutely superb vocally on this album. His baritone lead is steady and strong, and brings a soulful expression to the tunes that are perfectly picked for his range. He is probably more famous for his guitar picking, which is always excellent, but his vocals are really what shine here; meanwhile, he has a few splendid guitar solos in “Nashville Blues” and subdued but classic picking on “Rock Salt And Nails” and “Summer Wages.”

Most songs are laments about home and being away from loved ones too long. All are executed well, especially “Old Home Place,” “Some Old Day” and “Home Sweet Home Revisited.”  The standout track is the slow and powerful “Summer Wages,” which features a string trio of fiddles and viola. The bluegrass rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ten Degrees Or Colder” is solid, as is the traditional spiritual track, “Crying Holy Unto The Lord.” There is also a bluegrass version of the Fats Domino classic “I’m Walkin’,” which really does translate very well.

If one has not given bluegrass music that much thought, I would definitely recommend this album as one to include as a starting point. For those who know and love bluegrass, this is a fantastic window into the transition we have experienced in three generations of bluegrass music.  The genre has never been static and keeps rolling along.

Rating: A

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